France Preview

Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team

Julian Wilson is looking more focused and well-rounded at every event. It's been a quick transition from prodigal grom to World Title contender for the young Australian. Photo: Joli

And the party don't stop 'til six in the morning…

Unless you are rampaging around the south of France, in which case the party may just go on for days and days. All the while, centered in close proximity to the main contest site at La Graviere, you have Dick's and Rock Food--two of the more disarming venues for pro surfers to party at. History is rife with prime examples of overindulgence and debauchery at these fine establishments. Hopefully all the WT surfers can hold off on the festivities for a few days, as we have a nice swell forecasted for the start of Hossegor in what looks to be yet another quickly run event. Early reports have claimed the swell and sandbars to be firing for weeks. Last year's event was one of the best of the year, and with any luck--the ASP has been riding quite a wave of luck lately--this year will see the same stretch of sand deliver all the excitement and perfection we've been accustomed to as of late.

I made a few minor adjustments to my Fantasy Surfer team to allow room for John Florence and Brett Simpson. Besides those adjustments, I'm sticking to my prized ponies that have been performing exceptionally. The one guy I wish I had budget for is Mick Fanning. As a grom, I remember him being the fastest, most explosive surfer in the world. As a pro, he's been a deadly sniper and two-time World Champ. In this latest phase (the Slater re-invent yourself phase, recently debuted at lowers) the best from him may still be to come as he combines youthful flair with the mature competitor he has become.

Whoever you choose for your FS team, remember this: As the season comes to a close, it may be time to take some risks and switch up your team if you hope to make any major climbs in the rankings. Heitor Alves' recent 3rd and 5th place finishes did wonders for the few who had him on their team, just ask Kelly's girlfriend, Kalani Miller. She rode the strength of Heitor's big results all the way to 2nd overall on FS.

Here's my Fantasy Surfer team:

Brett Simpson
I've had Parko on My FS team all year--and so has everyone else. He's the most owned surfer. The switch to Simpson was a direct result of watching their last two heats in NY and Lowers. Simpson held nothing back, while Parko was surfing the same as the previous 10 or so contests he's been in at Lowers. Simpo's two losses to Parko--NY by .06 and Lowers by .2--were not a proper reflection of the action in the water. Sometimes it takes awhile for the judges to recognize a surfer's jump in performance. Simpo has jumped ahead to the lead pack.

John Florence
If I had to surf a heat against John next week in Hossegor beachbreaks that either closely resemble Beach Park or even Off The Wall, I'd be riddled with anxiety. The majority of WT surfers that saw him tear into crumbly Lowers walls last week have been saying their prayers in hope of not drawing John in conditions that actually suit him. There is much more going on behind those eyes than appears.

Gabriel Medina
He's been labeled the star of the class due to his many successes in Junior and Prime events. I've watched him surf and been left in amazement at the complexity of his moves, yet I still prefer Pupo's surfing to his. Wherever your personal subjectivity on surfing lies, you can't help but keep your eyes glued to the water every time either surfer is in a heat. Medina made my FS team over Pupo on the strength of his results in Europe--a lot of 10s.

Taj Burrow
Is loving life! He's no longer under the World Title microscope. He's traveling the world with his one true love, Johnny Cannon, and he knows his late season roll is about to get started at any event. Surfing as well as he has, Taj has to win an event this year. It is only a matter of time before the inevitable happens--he doesn't have to surf against Slater. Then, and only then, maybe Taj will get a chance to wear the No. 1 jersey.

Josh Kerr
Same goes for Kerr! Except ixnay on the World Title bit, replace Johnny Cannon with Nikki Kerr, and he knows as long as there is a decent air wind or a tube, nobody is favored against him. Not many people can potentially post two 9s against you in any size surf.

Owen Wright
It has been a very predictable climb to the top for the man that never breaks form, or character. Owen is the only surfer I've ever seen that appears completely unfazed to be surfing against Slater. His experience competing against The King this year will set him up for some very smooth sailing in the future. For now, Owen must find a way to surf beyond himself--in the very same fashion Kelly has been able to all year--if he has any chance at snatching the world title from Ke11y.

Kelly Slater
There will always be moments in your life you look back and reflect on. When Kelly looks back at some of the crazy situations he's gotten himself into and out of during competition, I wonder, does he think, "Damn, I just got extremely lucky," or "Damn, I am as incredibly good as people say I am." Whatever he's thinking doesn't really matter though--it is his actions that count. And all that action has lead to some of the most incredible contest surfing to date. With his feet firmly planted on the best looking traditional thruster he's had in years, his 11th World Title party is only a few more mind-blowing performances away.

Julian Wilson
Julian is the first. The first of the new young dynamos that will change the way contest surfing is done. Innersection favorite Albee Layer said something to the extent of, "Turns are just used to set up an air or tail throw." Julian does this with more explosiveness and creativity than anyone else. The time has come where, similar to skateboarding, you must show a complete mastery of numerous moves, not just the off-the-top, carve, cutback combo. I missed the part where he looked 'crabby' during a smooth switch-stance transition out of a board varial and into a stock backside 180 air reverse. I think everyone at home did as well. Julian makes me want to watch pro surfing.

Log on to Fantasy Surfer now and pick your team before the contest begins on Tuesday.